13-year-old Katy runaway may be in Mexico

Monday, 04 December 2017, 04:50:54 AM. A 13-year-old Katy girl vanished from her middle school Friday and may have run away to Mexico, according to authorities.

A 13-year-old Katy girl disappeared from school last week may have run away to Mexico, according to authorities.

Ashlee Hattermann was last seen at Thornton Middle School, where her mother dropped her off Friday morning. A few of the teen's friends saw her that day, but at some point she walked off campus and went to a church, where she persuaded a good Samaritan to buy her a bus ticket.

"She convinced a woman she was trying to get back to Laredo to get to her family," said Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Thomas Gilliland.

The teen hopped on a Greyhound headed south to Laredo on Friday afternoon.

The next morning, the good Samaritan saw Facebook posts about the missing girl and came to police after realizing she'd been duped.

Authorities tracked down security footage from the Katy bus station showing the girl getting ready to board a bus headed south.

Although Ashlee left school early in the day, the Hattermanns didn't find out their daughter was missing till late Friday afternoon, when the school called to say she'd only attended one class that day.

"The last thing we heard is that she crossed the border into Mexico," her mother, Tiffany Hattermann said Sunday. "We got a tip from somebody in Laredo."

Ashlee's parents fear she may have been headed south to find a man she met on the internet.

"There's been an ongoing case since May of last school year when she was talking online with a sexual predator," Hattermann said. "It was investigated by the Harris County Sheriff's Office and unfortunately they never followed up with it."

Gilliland disputed that.

"It has been investigated," he said. "It wasn't just put on a shelf."

After finding out about the messages last spring, Ashlee's parents took away her phone and internet access. But now they think she may have managed to stay in contact with the man using a secret second phone.

The worried Katy couple had no indication there was anything amiss in recent weeks, though.

"There was nothing wrong when I dropped her off at school," her mother said. "The only thing that threw me off was she told me she loved me when she got out of the car."

Ashlee is described as 5-foot-7 and 110 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. She may be wearing glasses. There was no Amber Alert issued, but activation requires indication of an abduction, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"I feel like my hands are tied on doing anything," Hattermann said.

Although authorities confirmed that Ashlee got off the bus in Laredo, they haven't tracked down her whereabouts since then and were unable to confirm her mother's belief that she's already in Mexico.

"I know they're saying he's a human trafficker but we don't have anything saying that yet," Gilliland said. "Right now, we're still treating this as a runaway."

The Department of Homeland Security is assisting in the case, and the sheriff's office has widely distributed the teen's picture online and in Laredo to help track her down.

"Our efforts are focusing on the Laredo area, where we've had some reports of possible sightings," said HCSO spokesman Jason Spencer. "We feel confident right now that our best leads are in Laredo."

Anyone with information in the case can call the Harris County Sheriff's Office Missing Person/Runaway unit at 713-274-9210.

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